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The G.I. Bill and Its Impact on Al’s Return

June 24, 2012
Good Conduct Medal

Good Conduct Medal

American Theatre Service Ribbon

American Theatre Service Ribbon

World War II Victory Ribbon

World War II Victory Ribbon

The above ribbons were earned by Al in his three years of service in the Army.  His Honorable Discharge certificate is below:

US Army Honorable Discharge

When Al left Roanoke to serve in the Army, he was employed by Hercules Powder Company in Pulaski, Virginia.  He worked with a crew of three weighing powder, putting the powder in sacks and sewing the sacks,and operated an electric sewing machine.  Obviously, he went through a lot of training in the Army.  He’d attended the Coyner Electrical Company in Chicago, in addition to military specific technical and operational training on weapons.  He’d also developed leadership skills as the head of his unit (the guys called him Granny).  He’d been promoted; at the time of his separation, he had attained the rank of Colonel. So when Al returned home, he needed a new direction.  Enter the G.I. Bill.

What was the G.I. Bill?

The United States has a history of taking care of its veterans. An exception to this would be after World War I, when soldiers basically got a ticket home and no more.  Later, protests led to legislation passed which paid “bonuses” to the veterans.  For World War II, the government tried to plan ahead.  The (to me scary-sounding) National Resources Planning Board studied projected post-war manpower needs which helped frame the legislation.  Education was the main thrust but not the only benefit.  When the bill, which was officially named  the ” Servicemen’s Readjustment Act of 1944 (better known as the G.I. Bill of Rights or the G.I. Bill) was put to a vote, it passed unanimously in both House and Senate. It was signed into law by FDR on June 22, 1944.  Among the benefits of the  G.I. Bill were:

  • Education – $500/year for education which covered tuition, books and supplies plus $65/month subsistence allowance.
  • Loan Guarantees to buy a farm, home or business
  • Employment services
  • $500 million for VA hospitals
  • Unemployment services – deemed the “52-20 Club” because unemployment benefits for veterans was $20/week for 52 weeks.

Who qualified for these benefits?

From the actual legislation:   “Any person who served in the active military or naval services after September 16, 1940 and prior to the termination of the present war, who is discharged or released under honorable conditions…provided further, that he served 90 days or more, or was discharged within such period by reason of an actual service- incurred injury or disability and provided further, that his education or training was impeded, delayed, interrupted or interfered with by reason of entrance into such service.”

What were the results?

The educational benefits were a huge success.  Some colleges and universities had doubts (like the president of Harvard) about the quality of students these veterans would be.  They turned out to be excellent students and the worries were proven unfounded. Within 7 years (it expired in 1956, eight million veterans had taken advantage of the educational benefits.

By 1955, there had been 4.3 million home loans as veterans bought 20% of all new homes after the war.

The least used of all benefits was the unemployment services.  Most veterans went quickly back to work or school upon their return.

Exceptions include disabled veterans who didn’t feel they benefited (one reason for the VA hospitals), women (who were considered not eligible) and hispanic and African-American veterans who felt discriminated against in college admissions.

All in all, the G.I. Bill was considered a great success and has been renewed/updated a few times since.

The next post will look at how the G.I. Bill helped Al make the transition home.

One Comment
  1. Very interesting thank your for explaining it. I can’t wait to read how it helped Al.

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